Thursday, 1 October 2020

Hoping for a Hoopoe

Two birds of my most-wanted birds for sometime now have been the Wryneck and the Hoopoe.  Well I got a Wryneck only 30 minutes from my home last month so now I was looking out for a Hoopoe. Since I've been birding, I've only known of a couple of opportunities to see one in the UK and they were a bit too far to travel.  So when one of these lovely exotic birds appeared in West Yorkshire this week, it was too good a chance to miss.

I'm not really a twitcher, preferring to take the opportunities of seeing a rare bird only if they crop up within about a two hour drive from home. I have occasionally gone further, but with a backup plan of what I'll do if the bird is no longer present - birds can fly you know, and often do! So a longer twitch often involves planning an overnight stay and a visit to a nature reserve which I wouldn't normally get to see.

However, for this bird no such planning was needed - I just jumped in the car and drove up the M62 and A1/M1 for about an hour and twenty minutes and there it was.  And I mean literally there it WAS!  I parked the car in a suburban street, walked down a ginnel for about five minutes to the Collingham and Linton Cricket Club and there was the bird was feeding on the outfield of the pitch in front of a crowd of about fifteen people. Easy-peasy and just the way I like it!

The light conditions were variable throughout the day but the bird was never very far away and it was easy to lie done on the grass verges just outside the pitch boundary perimeter to get some low profile shots.  It was feeding voraciously on bugs and grubs in the grass and could maintain extended periods of spearing the soil with its long, decurved beak, rarely moving off with out finding something to eat.  This is well demonstrated in the video below:

The UK is the northern limit of the Hoopoe's range and they are more commonly seen on the south and east coasts of England.  They winter in Africa and migrate to Spain, France and other parts of the Mediterranean in the spring and so occasionally get blown further north to the UK due to prevailing weather systems.  On average we get around 100 birds each year, but they don't breed here in the UK.

It really is an exotic looking bird with its orange-coloured crest, brownish neck, shoulders and breast and black and white barred wing feathers.  You can easily see why it drew such a crowd - it's no 'little brown job'. Since posting my photos on Facebook many people have said they are commonly seen abroad, particularly in Spain and France and often on golf courses. Well, as I have never done and don't intend on ever doing any birding abroad, I wasn't going to see them there, so I was really pleased when this little beauty came to see me!

Sunday, 20 September 2020

A Short Trip to the Whisky Isle of Islay

For our first extended motorhome trip in our recently acquired van we decided to go to Islay in the Inner Hebrides. Islay is well-known for its birds but due to Sarah's holidays we were going in between seasons really - too early for the influx of winter geese and other migrants returning from their breeding groups further north and after many of the summer visitors had left. Not to worry though, my recent interest in night sky photography and whisky gave me another reason for going - the hope of some dark skies and visiting some of the eight single malt whisky distilleries for which the island is world famous.

On the trip we saw a few birds but the only 'speciality' bird we found were four Choughs on the Ardnave headland near Loch Gruinart. We heard them long before we saw them as they make quite a different sound to other corvids. They were mainly feeding by digging in the sandbanks for insects.

The birds were quite mobile and none of these shots are particularly sharp - not having been birding for ages, I needed to get used to the weight of my camera and long lens again. It's funny how quickly you can get out of practice.

I also stumbled across this lovely Brown Hare which was laying low in the grass until it saw me - then it shot off into the distance never to be seen again.

It would have been rude not to help out the local economy whilst enjoying our short stay on Islay.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Red-backed Shrike in West Midlands

Today I called in at Sutton Park NNR in the west Midlands to see an adult male Red-backed Shrike on the way back from Cheltenham.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Bank Holiday Treat

Well, this was a great Bank Holiday surprise. I never thought I'd see a Wryneck in Greater Manchester, let alone have it giving such good views. This bird has been on my 'most wanted' list for sometime now and I was sure that I was going to need to travel to the Spurn area on the east coast to see one. 

So it was great to finally get this one so close to home and to watch it with a great bunch of people. Life and Greater Manchester tick.

Starting to get my birding mojo back now - roll on Islay in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, 6 August 2020

A Celebrity Bird appears in Derbyshire

After after four month break, I returned to serious birding activities yesterday with a trip to see Derbyshire's celebrity star, the Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture. I spent over 12 hours in the valley above Crowden with fantastic company as we hoped to get some photos of this beast of a bird.  

My best shot was taken at 7:24am after the mist had cleared to reveal the bird at one of its current roost sites. After that all I had were distant shots as we watched it riding the thermals in a number of places. I'll post a few more later (jobs to do today) but I had to get one out there after a great day out. 

All these shots were taken from the Pennine Way footpath along with 10 other birders and numerous passing hillwalkers.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Back to the Day Job

You may have noticed a little bit of lunar and night sky photography creeping into my blog recently as I slowly climb the very steep learning curve that is astrophotography.  Well that's my night job and so now I'm going back to the day job which is birding and bird photography. Ive got a few posts (listed below) to catch up on which I'll hopefully do over the next few days.  But to kick off I'm just posting four shots of some raptors I saw on the Wirral yesterday.

To do:
  • Siberian Stonechat - 5/1/20
  • Long-billed Dowitcher - 12/1/20
  • Purple Heron - 15/1/20
  • Barn owl - 15/1/20
  • Siberian Chiffchaff - 15/1/20
  • Short-eared Owls - 27/1/20
  • Starling Murmuration - 6/2/20
  • Rough-Legged Buzzard - 29/1/20
  • Wirral - 8/2/20